Stimulants are a type of substances that create a state of heightened energy and alertness in an individual. They are called stimulants because they stimulate the functions of your body’s sympathetic system, causing immediate changes such as dilated pupils, heightened blood pressure and increased heart rate and body temperature. They often also cause other immediate changes to how your body works that can lead to loss of appetite, nausea, disturbed sleep patterns, irritability, and even erratic or aggressive behavior.
There are many stimulant substances available that are commonly used or abused and, in fact, stimulant use is on the rise in the United States. While opioid drugs often receive all the media attention, the use of some stimulants, such as methamphetamine, has reached a crisis level in some areas. Fortunately, there are many treatment options available to help if you or one of your loved ones is struggling with addiction to stimulants.
Types of Stimulants
Stimulant substances range from widely available to highly illegal and regulated, and each substance affects the body in a different way. Some stimulant substances, like caffeine, are widely used with very little negative effects. Other stimulants are used as medications, such as Adderall, due to their ability to increase focus and alertness. When used as directed, some stimulants can be very helpful to individuals with certain medical conditions. Other stronger or illicit stimulants can cause problems when used incorrectly, leading to negative side effects, health problems and very uncomfortable and possibly dangerous withdrawal symptoms when someone tries to stop their use. These are a few common stimulants:
- Diet Pills
Effects of Stimulants on the Brain
While different stimulants can cause very different effects on the body, the ways they affect the brain and central nervous system are very similar. Stimulants are considered dopaminergic drugs because when they enter your brain they increase the levels of a neurotransmitter called dopamine. Dopamine is tied to our brain’s reward pathway. It controls the pleasure and attention centers in our brain and regulates our feelings of motivation, alertness, and pleasure. Our brains naturally produce dopamine whenever we need to focus or when we accomplish a task that should make us feel good.
Then it reabsorbs it back in a process known as dopamine reuptake. Stimulants act as dopamine reuptake inhibitors, meaning that not only can they flood user’s brains with dopamine, but they also prevent the brain from reabsorbing it back. It is all this excess free-flowing dopamine that causes the alertness, focus and increased energy experienced from stimulant use. Different substances will interact differently with the dopamine system. Some only block reuptake, others increase the amount of dopamine being produced while the most powerful stimulants, like methamphetamine, do both.
While increasing dopamine in individuals with dopamine regulation disorders, such as ADD/ADHD can be beneficial, too much dopamine in the brain for too long can be a bad thing. Brains can become accustomed to the level of dopamine produced by the stimulant substance and eventually stop producing their own dopamine entirely. When this happens, an individual can experience some very intense withdrawal symptoms if they try to stop taking the substance all at once.
Unique Stimulant Withdrawal Symptoms
When someone has become addicted to a stimulant, their brain often has reduced or completely stopped the production of dopamine. They are completely dependent on the dopamine provided by the substance in order to regulate their body’s dopamine system. If that person stops taking the substance all at once, or cold turkey, their dopamine levels will completely bottom out and they’ll experience the crash that comes from not having enough dopamine in their system. It is this sudden lack of dopamine that will cause the withdrawal symptoms associated with stimulant use.
Unlike the withdrawal caused by other drugs, the symptoms of stimulant withdrawal are mainly psychological. Stopping the use of stimulants rarely produces nausea, vomiting and other flu-like physical symptoms that other substances produce. Keep in mind that you or your loved one may not experience all of the stimulant withdrawal symptoms, as the amount and severity of symptoms are dependent on the type, amount and length of time a stimulant was used.
Common symptoms of stimulant detox include:
- Drug cravings
- Impaired Memory
- Inability to focus
- Increased appetite
- Mood swings
- Panic attacks
- Sleep disturbances
- Suicidal thoughts or behavior
- Vivid nightmares
In some severe cases, nausea, vomiting and stomach pain and cramps may occur as well. It’s also possible for stimulant withdrawal symptoms to make an individual appear drunk or hungover. The discomfort of withdrawal shouldn’t become a barrier to seek treatment, however. There are many great treatment options that can help you or your loved one to grow beyond stimulant addiction and leave this phase of your life behind. If you’re ready to get started, give us a call at (866) 840-6411. Our counselors are available to talk 24 hours a day.